FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Despite the fact that the cocaine he was supposed to steal didn't exist, a Fort Pierce man was found guilty in federal court of planning the armed robbery of a drug stash house.
After a trial that began Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Courthouse in Fort Pierce, a jury deliberated less than three hours before finding Jeff Junior Holland, 20, guilty of seven charges including conspiring to interfere with commerce by robbery, conspiring to possess more than 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in a drug-trafficking crime.
Holland's codefendants, James George, 19 and Darrius Jamar Gatlin, also of Fort Pierce, pleaded guilty Monday to charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and possession of a firearm in a drug-trafficking crime.
In July 2010 the three men met at a Fort Pierce bar with an undercover federal agent posing as a disgruntled courier for a South Florida drug organization and devised a plan to steal 15 kilograms of cocaine from a stash house in Broward County. As part of the arrangement, the undercover agent would get 5 kilograms of cocaine and the three Fort Pierce men would split the remaining 10 kilograms.
But the stash house and the drugs were made up by the undercover agent. Shortly after George, Gatlin and Holland arrived at a rendezvous site in Broward County, federal agents took them into custody. Surveillance of the three men that night showed Holland throwing something in some bushes, and agents later recovered a .40-caliber pistol in the bushes.
The defense argued that because the drugs didn't exist, no crime could have been committed.
"That's why we charged the defendants with attempt and conspiracy," Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Killinger said after the verdict.
All three men are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 6 by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez, who oversaw Holland's trial. All three men face up to life in prison.
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